Cone in the grass

Learning How to Say ‘No’

By Hannah Alvarado
Web Content Contributor

Sometimes, passing on things, is an easy task. Like, when your roommate asks you if you could do their dishes or when that kid in class asks you to lend them your notes (when you know they won’t give them back.) These things aren’t that difficult to say no to, and likewise, in mundane situations like these the ability to do it comes pretty naturally. Knowing when to say no, though, is means much more than staying out of situations you don’t feel like doing, but more importantly means that you stay out of a situation that could keep you from being true to yourself. As well, saying ‘no’ on a complicated issue or situation means one must truly learn to think about choices, and learn to make decisions with conviction.

Why is learning to do this so important? What’s great about the supposed conceptual power of ‘no’? The obvious answer, of course is avoiding a situation you do not want to be apart of. No one wants to get roped into doing your lazy roommate’s dishes for the millionth time, or picking up after their pets, or letting their two friends crash at y’all’s place every single day (when they don’t pay rent), for that matter. So let’s say its renewing-lease time, and this roommate is asking you to stay, that way they don’t have to go roommate searching, but you just don’t want to live with them anymore. Having the courage to be honest with them, and let them know it’s time for you all to part ways, is a very real sense of both strength, and freedom.

Now, let me be clear about something. Passing up on something you don’t want to be apart of does not apply for your: tests, quizzes or paying your parking ticket(s). Even though it’d be great to be able to say ‘well, I just don’t want to do that, so it’s ok not to’ when it comes to attending to your daily responsibilities, a-la-Bartleby the scriber, this notion is just unrealistic and could never work out in real life. (It didn’t work out too well for Bartleby either). Also, saying ‘no’ to someone or something also doesn’t merritt a rude or uncalled for response. Just because you have chosen to be honest, doesn’t mean you have to be discourteous about it. There’s a fine line between the two, and I always recommend to do your best not to burn any bridges. I know that person may be a lousy roommate, but you never know when you’re going to run into them again…

So declining to enter something you’d rather just stay out of, is a great sense of freedom. More than that though, ‘no’ also means staying out of a situation that you wouldn’t do. As in, being true to yourself or standing up for what you believe. This can cause some pain, like walking away from opportunities, people, etc. Let’s say you’re a photographer and that lousy roommate of yours remembers that your work was pretty great, so they hire you to take some photos and everything actually goes great! They loved your shoot, and want to pay you for the photos right away- the only catch? They want to present them to an employer as if they took them, and aren’t willing to budge on giving you any sort of credit to you at all. (This roommate really is lousy, huh?)

Sometimes it’s not always so easy, though, to muster up that no, even if you disagree. What if you really needed that money? What if you were starting to think you’d never be hired for the skill you hold dear? Photography is your life, and getting paid for it finally makes you a professional by definition but principally, you know you’d never be able to do it. Allowing any opportunity, person, job or otherwise to steamroll over you into doing something you know you wouldn’t do, is a real reason to say no. Regardless of what it may ‘take away’ from you, what remains is so much more important.

Once you’ve learned to wrestle with the idea of “am I saying no because I don’t want to do this, or because I wouldn’t do this”, you’ve opened up yourself to one of the main reasons, I personally find it truly important for all young adults to learn to say no. The inner debate, and decision, leads to a much more decisive way of living. Often, when we’re young, we make choices on a whim or because it is expected of us. Sometimes we just go with whatever feels right in the moment and can give little to no thought about it in the long run. I said some people, not everyone of us is guilty of this phenomena. (Shout out to all my overly analytical thinkers!) In really understanding a situation though, thoroughly enough to make a clear headed decision means that you are preparing yourself to handle some of life’s tough times to come.

Knowing when to say no; doesn’t just get you out of stuff you don’t want to do, or silly stuff that you dislike. It also can teach you, that your deep seeded opinions, principles and stances are valid, and worthing sticking up for. The concept of ‘no’, deciding what is right for you and why you believe that it is, is one of those right-of-passage things that we as young adults must face in preparation for life. Leading me to remind you all; to be brave enough to be honest with yourself, be decisive in your decisions, know why you feel as you do, and know when to say no.

Featured image by Hannah Alvarado.

One thought on “Learning How to Say ‘No’

  1. I have such a hard time saying “no”, but I’ve gotten better over the past few years. I think realizing that saying “no” doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, any less of friend, co-worker, S.O., etc is what has helped me tremendously.

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